hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Thursday, 31 October 2013

What US Intelligence Really Says About Europe

Rome, Italy. 31 October. In Blazing Saddles, an old Mel Brook comedy western, a black sheriff is pursued by a racist crowd intent on lynching him.  Just as he is caught he puts a pistol to his head and says “no-one move or the black guy gets it!”  In fact the sheriff uses the ‘N’ word which will never be seen in this blog. The crowd stop and plead with him not to pull the trigger.  European hysteria over revelations of US spying is a bit like that stupid crowd: “If you Americans spy we Europeans will refuse to be defended by you”.  This crisis speaks volumes about disconnect between the Euro-world and the real world, the information anarchists who are driving it and the nature of European politics these days.
Yesterday in Rome I spoke with a former European intelligence chief who told me that European hysteria is pure theatre.  He was clear.  “There is a big difference between the public outrage of politicians and the day-to-day reality of intelligence co-operation between Americans and Europeans”.
Some of aforesaid politicians talk of blocking US access to critical intelligence on money flows in Europe that might support terrorist networks. Some members of the European Parliament are even threatening the US with suspension of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks.  This week a group of Euro-parliamentarians are in Washington to talk to anyone who will listen.  European parliamentarians must seek re-election next year and most Europeans have not the faintest clue who these people are so manufactured outrage is very useful. 
This is but the latest attempt by the EU to insert itself into matters of hard national sovereignty – both big and small.  Yesterday it was announced the European Commission wants to regulate how Europeans flush toilets, which I suppose one would call soft sovereignty.   
The crisis has also revealed the relationship between  journalism and information anarchism. According to the BBC The Guardian’s soon-to-be departed Glenn Greenwald and Le Monde’s Jacques Follorou reported that an alleged NSA eavesdropping in France had collected more than 70 million recordings of telephone conversations between French citizens.  This was not true and demonstrates the very political motivations of the information anarchists and the lengths to which they are prepared to go; putting lives at risk. 
In fact the NSA regularly builds a meta-data picture of communication patterns to help thwart terrorist networks many of which are embedded in Europe…just like 911.  Here’s the irony; much of the information provided to the Americans came by way of intelligence services in the very countries now clamouring for sanctions to be imposed on the US.
The crisis says much about German sensibilities and Germany’s growing power in Europe, which is why Chancellor Merkel is worth bugging.  Indeed, Germany has shown itself both responsible and calculating in this crisis.  The despatch to Washington of the eminently-competent Christoph Heusgen, Merkel’s National Security Adviser to meet with his American counterparts was sensible.  However, implicit in comments emerging from Berlin is a German tendency to instrumentalise the EU for narrow German political and strategic ends. 
Here's the Euro-twist; Britain's intelligence services are the real target of both Berlin and Brussels, something my contact made clear to me.  He advised me to expect calls from factions in the European Parliament close to Berlin (and the European Commission) demanding EU oversight of all Europe’s intelligence services within the framework of European data protection legislation.  For once Prime Minister Cameron must stand firm (not something he finds easy) and make it abundantly clear that any attempt to extend the EU’s writ into the intelligence domain would damage the US-UK special intelligence relationship and constitute a clear and present danger to Britain’s vital security interests.
‘Outraged’ Europeans must also be careful what they wish for.  Push too hard and many on Capitol Hill will invite Europe to defend itself.  That would mark the effective end of NATO which given the meltdown in Europe’s security and defence would be a disaster.  Those are the stakes and yet some of Europe's politicians seem willing to countenance that risk. 
US intelligence like all intelligence services in democracies must be properly overseen and monitored. There is no question that the explosion of borderless information strewn across the internet and mobile phone networks is both a Spooks dream…and nightmare.  Naturally, intelligence agencies will seek to exploit this enormous domain (and prevent enemies from exploiting it).  However, transatlantic intelligence co-operation is now at risk and given the very real dangers out there that makes sense only to the dangerous and the self-interested.
Too many Europeans and their politicians refuse to face reality preferring instead to retreat into a dream-like state of security ignorance. For Snowden and his fellow information anarchists the damage they have caused is beyond their wildest dreams.  Today terrorists and the less democratic the world over are smiling contentedly.
Sleep well Europe.
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 28 October 2013

Euro-Realism: Blind Integration and the 'One Truth' Danger

Alphen, Netherlands. 28 October.  Machiavelli once wrote; “States suddenly acquired, like all else that is produced and that grows up rapidly, can never have such root or hold as that the first storm which strikes then shall not overthrow them”.  France’s President Hollande says the rise of Euro-sceptics could bring “regression and paralysis” (sounds like his government) whilst Italian Prime Minister Letta has warned that Euro-sceptics could win up to a third of seats in next May’s elections to the European Parliament.  Both reflect the now ignoble elite European tradition of the ‘One Truth’ mantra – there is no alternative to more ‘Europe’…whatever the people think.
One Truth reflects the acuity of the existential battle between the nation-state (and its people) and hard-line integrationists and federalists who dominate Brussels and some national capitals.  It is a struggle intensified by the profound lack of consensus between EU member-states over Europe’s future and a deepening split between those paying for the EU and those not.   
One Truth also reveals a deeply insecure Euro-elite.  Indeed, one can smell the faint, rotting odour of Spanish Inquisition hanging in Europe’s air these days as all and any critic of integration are dubbed ‘populist’, ‘nationalist’ or both by Europe's High Priests.  To be accused of ‘populism’ or ‘nationalism’ in Europe is akin to being called a Fascist or Nazi.  Indeed, I have found myself accused of being somehow in league with truly fascist nutters such as Greece’s Golden Dawn simply for expressing my legitimate concerns about the concentration of elite power in Europe.
One Truth is an old technique – quell debate over an important, controversial question by suggesting any criticism is an aberration in the face of ‘truth’.  The most recent example of One Truth was the attempt by Britain’s last Labour Government to quash legitimate concerns over the hyper-immigration they oversaw as racist.  By the time they admitted such concerns were legitimate the damage to social cohesion had been done.
Britain should be playing its traditional ‘hold on a bit’ role with Prime Minister David Cameron positioning himself as the champion of the disempowered concerned across Europe.  However, Cameron again fails to see the bigger, strategic picture and is only acting on the most tactical, narrow and short-term of political impulses.  In his January 2013 “Europe speech” Cameron laid out a series of principled battle-lines for the reform of Europe and the ending of blind integration.  Since then he has been in retreat captured by Europe’s true power-broker Chancellor Merkel for whom further political integration is vital to impose discipline over the Eurozone, the only bit of the EU that really matters.   
Sadly, any hope that Cameron had of driving forward a state-friendly reform agenda were killed at last week’s Brussels EU summit at a meeting he hosted for his fellow ‘reformists’ (I will not dwell on the utter hypocrisy of Europe’s leaders over ‘Snowden-gate’).  The French Government flatly opposed any cull of EU regulations (now there’s a surprise) and afterwards Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Cameron had no chance.  The now inevitable showdown between Britain and the rest of the EU just moved one step closer with the British faced with a simple choice; leave the EU or surrender.
Still, by way of responding to Cameron’s call for a regulation cull Commission President Barroso said some 5590 regulations had already been cut.  However, Barroso failed to point out that the aforesaid regulations had been either temporary or obsolete whilst new regulations take the Commission into the very heart of state competence – finance, justice and even defence.  Given Britain’s ‘constitutional lock’ on future integration the Commission is now looking at every possible way to deepen Europe by stealth.  Watch this space!
This danger is reflected in a new report by the normally slavishly pro-EU Centre for European Reform which warns the European Commission that its job is not to act as captain for the integration team.  It is refreshing to see a European think-tank for once not trumpeting the Commission’s line just so they can get their grubby hands on the next dollop of Commission (sorry my) cash. 
The Oxford English Dictionary describes a ‘populist’ as “an adherent of a political party seeking to represent the whole of the people”.  This is something President Hollande, Signor Letta and Mr Barroso would be well-advised to consider.  Indeed, as Machiavelli wrote, “…a man who is accustomed to act in one particular way, never changes…However, when times change and no longer suit his ways, he is inevitably ruined”.
Blind integration and One Truth politics is the real danger to Europe’s liberty and democracy and millions of Europeans instinctively sense that.  Therefore, Cameron, Rutte and other reformers need to start building a new pan-European movement of Euro-Realists before it is too late.
Off to Rome today if the storm here blows out...
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 25 October 2013

Twenty-First Century Strategic Cyprus

British Sovereign Base Area, Cyprus. 25 October.  150 miles from Beirut, 197 miles from Damascus, 206 miles from Tel Aviv, 1030 miles from Tehran, 241 miles from the Suez Canal, 566 miles from Athens, 336 miles from Ankara and some 388 miles from the narrow channel that connects Russia’s Fleet from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Britain’s military bases on Cyprus enjoy an unrivalled strategic view of the Middle East and beyond.  Indeed, they are amongst the most strategic of strategic assets the world over and about to become more so. 
Sitting in the cockpit of a British Typhoon fighter at RAF Akrotiri with a UN-supporting American U2 spy plane close by the importance of Britain’s continued strategic presence in the eastern Mediterranean was all too clear to me.  On a radar screen I could see all air and ship movements in the region.  Indeed, the strategic importance of Cyprus to future humanitarian operations and strategic stability in a region undergoing the most profound of political transformations was reinforced through my chats here with the British Ambassador to Beirut.
Cyprus also poses a real strategic challenge for Britain.  There is much talk these days of ‘grand strategy’ – the organisation of large means in pursuit of large ends.  However, my friend and colleague Professor Paul Cornish at the University of Exeter makes a critical point; it is not so much grand strategy that Britain needs as much as the ability to think and act grand strategically – to organise large means in pursuit of large ends. To that I would add the vital British need to see strategic partnerships and the assets they provide as such and thereafter preserve and develop them.  That means an end to London’s endemic short-termism.
Both Cyprus and British strategy will be tested in the years to come.  As the Americans pivot to Asia-Pacific (as they must) they will look to Britain and the other European allies to be credible actors in the promotion of peace and stability in Europe’s dangerous strategic neighbourhoods – North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.  Britain's bases on Cyprus cover all three neighbourhoods.
Of course the Americans will maintain a presence in the region not least because Israel is as much US domestic policy as foreign policy.  However, America today is a bit like Britain in 1925 when Cyprus became a Crown Dependency – apparently strong on paper but wracked by financial challenges and spread far too thinly the world over. 
The world’s future stability is dependent on a strong America and Britain must be seen to invest in assets such a Cyprus as proof of that.  This is something EU leaders might wish to ponder as they manufacture a crisis over US spying simply to prevent David Cameron raising the issue of EU reform.
Given the twenty-first century context the strategic partnership with Cyprus is not some vestige of imperial past.  Cyprus is a vital British strategic partner and fellow EU member-state.  London must understand the importance of that partnership and continue to maintain its commitment to the security and well-being of all the Cypriot people as agreed in the 1960 treaties of London and Zurich.  It was therefore good to see London playing an under-stated yet critical role in the recent financial crisis.  Britain also has a vital continuing role in helping Cyprus, Greece and Turkey come to a new understanding so that EU and NATO allies and partners can work together for peace and stability in the region.
Britain’s bases also need to be brought into the twenty-first century.  Sitting in the delightful garden of Flagstaff House, residence of the Commander, British Forces Cyprus gazing down on the azure blue eastern Mediterranean there was a sense of genteel decline about both the house and the bases.  British bases have played a critical role in support of operations in Afghanistan but will need to be modernised for the coming test.  Part of that means a Britain willing to up its presence in both Cyprus and the region.  The recent visit of HMS Dragon, a brand new, state-of-the-art British destroyer was a good start, together with the potent presence of RAF Typhoons.  Critically, Britain needs to reinvest in the bases as a strategic hub.
The friction-full, hyper-competitive world that will become all too apparent in the aftermath of Afghanistan will see big power contest big power, the state contest the anti-state and much of that competition will take place on Cyprus’s doorstep.  Indeed, the Syria tragedy demonstrates all too graphically a Middle East once again the crucible of contest and change. 
The British bases on Cyprus are vital to British, European and Alliance strategic interests and a critical pillar of stability in an inherently unstable region.  Cyprus is a vital twenty-first century strategic hinge at the threshold of European, regional and world security.  Just look at a map!
Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Rest of Us Will Decide Scotland’s Fate, Mr Salmond

Alphen, Netherlands. 22 October.  Listening to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond on the the BBC Sunday morning one could have been forgiven for thinking he was in charge of Scotland’s destiny. That of course is precisely the impression he likes to give.  His performance was the very epitome of the hubris and arrogance of which he accuses Westminster and which he says does so much damage to Scotland and its people.  He also gave the very firm impression that not only will he and his fellow separatists win the September 18, 2014 referendum on Scottish independence but he will also dictate the terms of the political settlement with the United Kingdom thereafter.   
As a part Scot let me immediately disabuse Mr Salmond of his political fantasy.  Mr Salmond has successfully denied his fellow Britons a say on the most important constitutional issue facing my country for over three hundred years.  Come next September I will insist on my say on Scotland’s relationship with my country should the Scottish people choose for secession. 
So here are my terms for a political settlement between a Salmond-led independent Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom:
1.     Scottish independence to mean full independence;
2.     Her Majesty the Queen to be removed as Head of the Scottish state;
3.     The Pound Sterling to be withdrawn as the currency of the Scottish state with the Bank of England no longer the bank of last resort for failed Scottish banks;
4.     Scottish citizens to be denied the right to serve in the British armed forces as Scotland will be neither a Commonwealth nor NATO member;
5.     Scotland to be treated like any other aspirant state to EU membership.  That will mean should the new Scottish Government apply for EU membership Edinburgh must fulfil all the terms demanded of an Accession state and thus all 80,000 pages of the acquis communautaire;
6.     Until Scotland accedes to the European Union Scottish citizens to have the same rights to work in the United Kingdom as citizens of any other aspirant state. That would mean all Scots would be required to have a full working permit or have to leave the UK like any other non-EU migrant;
7.     The British-Scottish border to be established as an external border of the European Union.
There would of course need to be safeguards for those Scots working or settled permanently in the United Kingdom and for Britons living in Scotland.  However, the Scottish people must understand once and for all that Mr Salmond's bogus claim that a vote for independence would have no negative implications must be seen for what it is; utter nonsense. 
And just for the record – much of ‘Scotland’s’ oil is actually British.  Under international law maritime energy rights are established by extending land borders.  Just look at a map, Mr Salmond.
Being part Scot my respect for the Scotland’s people and culture is profound and heartfelt and it is my hope that a deal could be arrived at fair to all.  However, I do not believe that possible so long as Mr Salmond is at the Edinburgh helm.  So Mr Salmond, be honest with the Scottish people.  It is the rest of us in the United Kingdom who will ultimately decide Scotland’s fate. 
Independence for Yorkshire!  That is much more viable.
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 21 October 2013

Decline and Fall?

Tartu, Estonia. 21 October.  Does the West want to lead?  In his masterpiece The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire first published pointedly in 1776 English historian Edward Gibbon wrote, “The five marks of the Roman decaying culture: Concern with displaying affluence instead of building wealth; Obsession with sex and perversions of sex; Art becomes freakish and sensationalistic instead of creative and original; Widening disparity between very rich and very poor; Increased demand to live off the state”.  Sequestration, Syria, Snowden and Shutdown America shows at least some of the signs of Gibbon’s Rome. 
The other day I was in conversation with one of NATO’s most senior and distinguished officers who alluded to the strange symmetry of Western history.  The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht brought a final end to Spain’s once great empire and opened a century of systemic struggle between Britain and France for global supremacy.  In 1815 the Battle of Waterloo finally ended that struggle in Britain’s favour.  A century ago Europe stood on the brink of the cataclysmic First World War that would end Britain’s dominion and slowly usher in the American century.  2013?
The United States pulled back from the brink this past week.  However, all the signs are that this is but a temporary truce and that come January Washington ideologues on both left and right could well tip America and the West over the edge into self-induced recession.  The damage to American leadership would be incalculable. 
As for Europe the only saving grace at the IMF’s Global Challenges, Global Solutions conference in shutdown Washington was that for once Europe’s woes were not dominating the agenda. 
Recent events have demonstrated the malaise from which politics and strategy is suffering in both Washington and Western Europe’s power capitals - Berlin, Paris and London.  It is as though the very pillars of the West are beginning to buckle just as China is emerging to pose a systemic challenge to Western leadership.  It as though the West has lost the will to compete.  Indeed, British finance minister George Osborne spent much of last week trying desperately to sell Britain piecemeal to China.
It is not China’s rise that is risking the West’s leadership but rather the elite malaise so horribly self-evident in Washington these past weeks and Europe these past years.  Absurdly self-abusive partisan politics, blindly destructive ‘visions’ that bear no relationship to citizens’ lives, corrosive political correctness that paralyzes policies by championing the needs of the few at the expense of increasingly alienated majorities who sit in silent, sullen and impotent witness at the follies of their leaders.  Patriotism, duty and obligation are too often sneered at as passé by the very people charged with leadership.  Gibbon would have recognised all of this.
Gibbon believed Rome fell because Romans became declinist and Roman leaders became so full of their own conceits that they were unable to see the big strategic picture.  In the wake of the Washington fiasco China called this week for the “de-Americanisation” of the world.  And on the face of it the Chinese may have a point.
So, is the West doomed?  There is a very big difference between Gibbon’s Rome/Britain of 1776 and between Britain in 1913 and the West in 2013.  In 1913 Britain was facing the hard consequences of rapid decline that had set in somewhere between the end of the American Civil War in 1865 and German unification in 1871.  Indeed, in 1913 Germany’s industrial production was almost twice that of Britain’s.
However, whilst China’s economy is today worth some $12 trillion compared with an America worth some $16 trillion a range of structural political, economic, diplomatic and military power factors suggest that leadership is still there for America’s taking…if Washington wants it.  The same goes for Europeans.     
Here in Estonia on freedom’s front-line some forty kilometres from the Russian border the question of America’s will to lead and Europe’s willingness to act hangs in the air like mist in the forests of silver birch that surround me.  For the first time in their scorched history Estonians thought they were secure, now they are not so sure.
Today is the anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson’s great 1805 victory at the Battle of Trafalgar which cemented British naval supremacy for a century.  If the West still wants to lead it must compete for as the great man said; “First achieve victory and then make best use of it”.  
As for Gibbon the loss of the American colonies proved an irritating inconvenience for Britain but nothing more.  Indeed, through the 1823 Monroe Doctrine which forbade European colonial ‘interference’ in the Americas the US effectively protected Britain’s back enabling a massive expansion in the British Empire to the south and east.  Such is history.
Decline and fall?  Only if we in the West will it.
Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Euro-Realism: Now For the Long Term?

Alphen, Netherlands. 16 October.  In 1910 Brigadier-General Henry Wilson was giving a lecture arguing that a European war was inevitable and Britain’s only option was to ally with France.  One of the attending officers responded by suggesting that only “inconceivable stupidity on the part of statesmen” could trigger such a disaster.  Wilson responded with derision: “Inconceivable stupidity is just what you’re going to get”.  A century on and “inconceivable stupidity” is alive and well at the highest levels in both America and Europe.  Why?
Two events have prompted this blog.  The first was a considered critique of my position on Europe from a senior Dutchman.  The second was a new report written by the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations under the chairmanship of former World Trade Organisation boss Pascal Lamy.  Entitled Now for the Long Term the report focuses on short-termism in the business sector but could just as well apply to politics.
Take Europe.  My Dutch friend offers two arguments for deeper European integration; aggregated influence afforded by the concentration of power in the EU and the “inevitable decline” of the European nation-state.  For him it is vital that EU institutions be given much greater power over decision-making in the twin names of efficiency and effectiveness.  In a sense he was implicitly suggesting that only the EU institutions are capable of the long-term thinking that Europe desperately needs. 
To some extent he has a point.  Take David Cameron’s attempts to repatriate powers from Brussels to Britain.  Cameron is arguing his case purely on the grounds of Britain’s national interest.  It is doomed to fail.  Rather, Britain should be presenting a principled case about the nature of governance in Europe and the dangers of creating an over-mighty European executive. 
Only this morning it was announced that in 2015 the European Commission will demand that all European citizens dispose of their garbage/trash in four separate containers.  Such meddling by Brussels has gone way too far as the Commission interprets European treaties to the maximum in its power struggle with member-states.
The trouble with the long-term is that in Europe it is comprised of many national short-terms - elections.  In principle an integrated EU led by a European Government underpinned with proper democratic oversight by a functioning European Parliament is very attractive. 
However, most of those that argue for deeper European integration do so purely on the basis of short-term economics.  On the face of it to them a rich economic dictatorship would be preferable to poor democracy.  That of course is not what they believe but that is the long-term implication of their short-termism. 
Indeed, if the centre of power gravity in Europe was the European Commission and today’s European Parliament the ratio between the representative and the represented would go from roughly 1 parliamentary deputy for every 50,000 citizens to 1 parliamentary deputy to every 500,000 citizens.  That is why Europe is at a dangerous juncture and why I as a citizen speak out.
Furthermore, the very nature of EU politics far from aggregating the power of EU member-states is actually accelerating its decline.  Today, no-one in Europe knows what or who is responsible for what.  The member-states blame Brussels and Brussels blames the member-states.  In the space in between there is a massive sovereignty black-hole into which power and accountability is lost. 
National politicians and their officials fail to see such dangers lost as they are in the short-term minutiae of the daily EU haggle.  Indeed, Carl Bildt and a few others excepted most European politicians have lost sight of the big, dangerous trends taking place beyond Europe’s borders.  Indeed, one only has to look at the wilful and imprudent disarmament in Europe to realise the extent to which European political short-termism is disconnecting European security from world security.   
The EU and its advocates HAVE to exaggerate the smallness of the European nation-state to justify their demand for the concentration of state power in EU institutions.  Sadly, this power struggle is rendering both the European state and the EU impotent with NATO caught in the politico-strategic middle.
Now, I am a passionate believer in close, even intense co-operation between European states.  Moreover, I can perfectly see why the fights against transnational crime and other evils of the twenty-first century world need co-ordinating European institutions.  However, Europe is not the United States and having seen the self-aggrandizing European elite at close quarters I have absolutely no faith in checks and balances.  Indeed, too often the European elite demonstrate all the hallmarks of a self-selecting European aristocracy.
And therein lies the weakness in my own argument; for me democracy should come before power as a political principle.  However, only stable power can think long-term.  The very holding of power to account by definition renders power short-termist and tends to promote ‘inconceivable stupidities’.  However, when push comes to shove short-term stupidity is less damaging than long-term stupidity - which is why I will never be a European federalist.
Euro-Realism: now for the long-term?
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 14 October 2013

Edward Snowden and the World Wild Web

Somewhere in England.  14 October.  Sir David Omand is one of the most reasoned and reasonable of former senior British security officials I have ever met.  He called the impact of information theft by Edward Snowden, “…the most catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever”.  It is not without irony that as Omand spoke Edward Snowden was receiving the Sam Adams Award for standing up for ‘integrity’ in spookery…in Moscow!  As he accepted the award Snowden looked for all the world like a mild-mannered choir boy. 
Snowden like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is part of a new generation of anarchists forged in the information wild west that is the dark web – the World Wild Web.  For the information anarchists the aim is not the establishment of some esoteric new balance between security and liberty but rather the replacement of state borders with information universalism.   
Now, I am no apologist for power and the many (not all) group-thinking Establishment greasy-polers who support them.  Indeed, the over-mighty state is never far away as evidenced by current efforts in Britain to introduce state regulation of a free Press and the European elite’s desire to create an EU super-state.  The state will always exploit all and any opportunity to control information and extend its writ – it is the nature of the beast.  However, to imply British and American security services are a threat to liberty to justify law-breaking is dangerously misguided.
Freedom imposes responsibilities and it is the complete absence of responsibility that defines Snowden and the information anarchists. Sadly, by publishing the information Snowden stole Britain’s Guardian newspaper has crossed the line between holding power to legitimate account and rendering it dangerously impotent.  Indeed, by publishing security critical information the Guardian is making the case for press regulation easier and an over-mighty state more not less likely.  
Snowden and his fellow anarchists appear to see themselves not so much above the law of the land but rather as an alternative to it.  At the very least the arrogance of the information anarchists is breath-taking.  When David Miranda was stopped on 18 August at London’s Heathrow Airport under anti-terrorism laws en route from Germany to Brazil he was allegedly carrying up to 60 gigabytes of stolen British files classified to the highest level.  If true not only was Miranda in flagrant breach of British law but why on earth fly through London? 
A British court will this month hear a case between the British state and Miranda at which as I understand it Miranda will offer a public interest and human rights defence.  It is something of an under-statement to suggest this will be a test case because the way the court interprets public interest and human rights could well define a new balance between security and liberty.  Absolute liberty is of course the absolute right of the individual to absolute freedom.  That is a definition of anarchy.
The information anarchists are strategically important.  They are part of a growing band of anti-state actors in a twenty-first century world which will be defined by a cacophony of struggles; the state versus anti-state, democracy versus rich autocracy and in Europe between the state and federalists. 
Sir David Omand is unequivocal. “The assumption the experts are working on is that all the information [that Snowden allegedly stole] or almost all of it will now be in the hands of Moscow and Beijing” and that the information furnished by Snowden is invaluable to terrorists and criminal networks.
Global security is not Grand Theft Auto.  It is a deadly serious business with Western security services locked in an oft deadly struggle to prevent the deadly ambitions of Islamists or countering the voracious appetite for stolen state secrets of Chinese, Russian and other intelligence services.  From my experience security officials are not hell bent on subverting liberty but good people daily laying their lives on the line and sometimes losing them so you and I can go about our business in the reasonable assumption that we will come home safe. 
And that’s the point – for the information anarchists the World Wild Web is a kind of information super-highway with absolutely no road-signs.  Rather, Snowden, Assange and their like see themselves as the High Priests of the Web sitting in high judgement over an unwritten Hobbesian law of natural information.  Judge, jury and executioner in the struggle between security and liberty.
Edward Snowden is no hero and as long as some fete him for his actions other anarchists will emerge to do immeasurable damage to legitimate Western security interests.  Indeed, if Snowden really had the courage of his stated convictions he would not be hiding in plain sight in Russia but return to the US to face the justice of democracy. 
Edward Snowden – choir boy he ain’t!  
Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Euro-Realism: Debunking Nick Clegg

Alphen, Netherlands. 9 October.  In a speech yesterday entitled “Richer, Stronger, Secure and Greener” fellow Sheffielder, fellow former Eurocrat (sort of) and Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made an impassioned plea for Britain to remain within the EU.  “The day I dread”, he thundered, “...the day I hope never comes – is a time when it is all too late:  Britain has stumbled out of the EU, and we look back to these days and say we should have done more”.  So let me debunk Nick Clegg.
“Let me be absolutely clear: leaving the EU would be economic suicide”.  At its Eurozone heart the European Central Bank will shortly move to stabilise the Continent’s broken banks many of which were exposed to the Spanish property bubble.  Fixing the Eurozone's banks some of which are German could cost up to €200bn ($270bn) of taxpayer’s money and by so doing kill economic growth for the rest of the decade.  Moreover, Greece will require further bail outs whilst Italy, Spain and Portugal have not even begun to carry out the structural reforms vital if the EU economy is to become globally competitive.  Staying in the EU looks more like economic suicide than leaving it.
“Three million British jobs are linked to the Single Market – three million. As a member we are part of the world’s biggest borderless market place, made up of 500 million people. It’s now the largest economy in the world - where we do around half of all our trade.”  The annual cost of EU regulation to Britain is now €5bn ($7bn).  This is a ‘tax’ on jobs which by extension makes an already uncompetitive European economy dangerously so. 
Furthermore, a recent report by Britain’s Office for National Statistics highlighted Britain’s growing trade deficit with the rest of the EU and the burgeoning trade surplus with the rest of the world.  The EU represents 45% of Britain’s trade of which 90% of that is with Germany.  Indeed, Britain is Germany’s biggest world trading partner.  The Germans are not noted for acting against their national interest and whatever Britain’s EU status Berlin would want to keep the relationship strong. 
“What will happen to our influence in the world if we choose to go it alone”?  Take European defence.  Between 2008 and 2012 small European countries cut defence budgets by 30%. Medium-sized states by 10-15% and Britain and Germany by 8%.  Of the €180bn ($243bn) or so EU members spend each year on defence Britain and France alone represent almost 50%.  Moreover, Britain, France and Germany spend 88% of all the defence research and development in Europe.  Worse, 19 of the 28 EU member states spend less than €4bn per annum and much of it horribly inefficiently. 
 Today, the EU average spent on defence is 1.36% of GDP and the NATO average (excluding the US) 1.52% which is well below the agreed NATO target of 2% GDP.  Ironically, given proliferation elsewhere in the world it is Nick Clegg’s “Little Britain”, one of only 3 NATO members (including the US) that spends 2% GDP on defence that is leading Europe back to defence sanity with a €200bn ($270bn) defence equipment programme over the next ten years. 
“What will happen to our citizens’ safety if we leave…Criminals cross borders – so must we”. These are the borders Nick Clegg and the EU want to scrap.  Indeed, citizens’ safety would be better served if Nick Clegg simply got the UK Border Agency to work.
“Brussels isn’t perfect by any means. But it’s just not true that it’s some kind of sinister super-bureaucracy…”   Strange that.  The Economist (hardly an anti-EU trumpet) this week said, “…some Eurocrats admit many national politicians have little idea how much power they have conceded to Brussels”. 
Nick Clegg and I agree on the need for a referendum on EU membership to be put before the British people.  Given the deeper political integration that is coming if Nick Clegg was honest with the British people the question would be essentially the same as that which will be offered to the Scottish people next September; “Should Britain be an independent country”.  Indeed, for that is the real choice now to be made and which is implicit in Clegg’s speech… and Nick Clegg knows it.
Unlike some I do not want Britain to leave the EU but the choice Britain faces now is either to leave the EU or surrender its distinctive political culture.  There is no middle ground for Britain to occupy.  Indeed, such are the forces at work in the Eurozone crisis the EU and the Euro are one and the same thing.  The only option thus available is for the Union to integrate further or dismantle the single currency. 
Clegg says he fears the day Britain leaves the EU.  There is a much greater danger.  Britain awakes one day to find itself part of a federalised Europe over which it has absolutely no influence.  
The saddest thing about Nick Clegg’s speech is what it reveals about the man himself; a British politician who is blind to the EU’s many failings and who believes neither in Britain nor the British people. 
He must be a Wendy – a Sheffield Wednesday fan. 
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 7 October 2013

Pashtun: The Unanswerable Question?

Alphen, Netherlands. 7 October.  Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “We have forty million reasons for failure but not one single excuse”.  A year ago this week the inspirational Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Pakistani Taliban for championing the right of girls to an education in North-West Pakistan.  Next month Abubakar Siddique will publish an important book entitled “The Pashtun Question” (London: Hurst and Company).  Both Ms Yousafzai and Abubakar imply and address a question that has haunted Western strategy since 2001; can the proud Pashtun take their rightful place at the heart of government in both Islamabad and Kabul? 

The West’s post-2001 vision (such as it was) saw Afghanistan and Pakistan sufficiently strong to deny AQ the use of their respective territories for the launching of attacks against the West.  The strategy was dependent on a compliant Pashtun.  Indeed, since Western forces deployed to Afghanistan in November 2001 the Pashtun have been at the epicentre of efforts to help Afghans build an Afghanistan that is no longer a threat to itself or its neighbours. 

The value of Siddique’s book is to demonstrate that the relationship between the Pashtun, the Taliban and AQ is much more complex than many outsiders understand.  Whilst all Pashtuns are not Taliban, it is certainly true that the Pashtun and the Taliban are intrinsically linked.  However, the relationship with AQ and the foreign fighters is and always has been complex.  In other words, a counter-radicalisation strategy should have been possible if built on the subtle clan, tribe and faith networks, .loyalties and distinctions that pass for politics in the region. 

As ever, the Pashtun Question can be traced back to history and an 1893 line the British drew on an imperial map to divide and rule the ‘Pathans’.  During the ‘fuzziness’ of the British Raj Pashtun autonomy was tolerated because there was little else the British could do and the Pashtun were useful in countering Russian ambitions in the region.  However, since Pakistan’s 1947 independence from Britain the Pashtun have been both parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan and yet autonomous from both Islamabad and Kabul - self-governing people in an ungoverned space.

Some have suggested the creation of an independent Pashtunistan.  However, such a state would effectively dismember both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Moreover, the creation of a third weak state based simply on ethnicity would only deepen tensions between the Balochi, Hazzara, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tajik, Uzbek and the Pashto peoples who have populated these lands long before the British imported the idea of the ‘state’.

Ironically, by casting the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan as a first step in a Global War on Terror (GWOT) Washington and its allies forgot the most essential lesson for dealing successfully in Afghanistan and Pakistan; all politics are intensely local.   Today Afghan state-building is essentially failing not least because the West has not dealt with the chronic and endemic poppy-driven corruption of the Kabul government.  Too often the West has been seen to support people the Pashtun despise, a reality brought home to me during a meeting with the elders of a Pashtun village.

The US is also changing strategy.  With the May 2, 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden the exclusive identification of AQ with North-West Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan has weakened.  Instead, AQ affiliates have appeared in Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria with sympathisers now well-embedded in Western societies such as America and Britain.  The consequences of AQ’s brand outreach were all too apparent in the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya.  Indeed, the attacks this weekend by US Special Forces in Libya and Somalia mark the beginning of a new intelligence-led strategy aimed at decapitating AQ wherever, whenever…

The West’s failure in both Afghanistan and Pakistan also reflects the ever-widening gap between American and European strategic culture.  Today, most Europeans have either pulled out or tuned out.  Indeed, whilst the US is perfectly content to employ drones and Special Forces in a coercive strike and punish strategy for many Europeans coercion has become a dirty word.  Such a split not only undercuts Western strategy in the region but has brought NATO close to the edge of dysfunction.

Consequently, the West is about to join the long list of those who came, who saw and failed to answer the Pashtun Question.  By suggesting the Pashtun people can identify with both the Afghan and Pakistani states Abubakar suggests there is an answer to be found.  I wonder.  Equally, it is a crying shame this book is appearing only as the sun sets on the West’s intervention rather than at its dawn.  Indeed, if no answer can be found to the Pashtun Question it will doom both Afghanistan and Pakistan to the outer margins of stability and that is only in the interest of the fanatics that shot Ms Yousafzai.  

Pashtun: the unanswerable question?

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 4 October 2013

US: Anyone for Tea?

Alphen, Netherlands.  4 October.  All countries exist in a space between a mythical past and current reality.  However, few permit past myth to destroy future hope.  That is what 20 to 30 conservative Tea Party Republicans in Washington are effectively trying to do.   To their minds the Tea Party faction is standing up for the ‘little guy’ in the face of monstrous socialized government in the guise of Obamacare.  In fact, by closing down the US Government a few dangerously deluded American politicians are holding not just America to ransom but the entire world. 
That doyen of the Tea Party Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky, said recently, “Washington is horribly broken. We are encountering a day of reckoning and this movement, this Tea Party movement, is a message to Washington that we're unhappy and that we want things done differently”.  They may get their wish.
This is not the first time the US Government has been shut down by silly American domestic politics.  The last time was 17 years ago.  However, that shut down took place against the backdrop of a booming world economy.  Today, the world’s economy can best be described by the words of an old Sting song – fragile!
The actions of Mr Paul and his colleagues could well doom the world to an economic and financial crisis even worse than the 2008 banking collapse.  Indeed, without a bipartisan agreement to increase America’s debt ceiling from its current $16 trillion to $17 trillion the US could technically default on its debts.
Such a default would lead in turn to a crash in the bond markets as those holding American debt often in unstable regimes and mainly in Asia would rush to dump dollars.  Indeed, people in such places hold American debt precisely because as the world’s driver economy and home to the world’s reserve currency such nonsense should not in principle happen.
Given that fragility an American technical default would see the US economy contract sharply.  The value of the dollar would plummet whilst that of other currencies would climb sharply.  China would be particularly badly hit.  Indeed, Beijing is already facing falling domestic demand and is looking to re-ignite export-led growth. 
The implications do not bear thinking about. The US debt/GDP ratio is some 110% of debt to GDP, compared with for example the UK at 95.6%.  China’s debt to GDP ratio is believed to be between 230 and 240% and possibly as high as 400%.  In other words, if the Washington stand-off is not resolved soon it could well trigger the mother of all debt crises in China.  A Chinese debt crisis would make the Eurozone look like a walk in the park for the world economy.
Worse, the crisis would mark the end of the Bretton Woods financial system which placed America at the centre of world financial and economic power.  Indeed, the end of Bretton Woods would mark the end of the American age far more perfunctorily than a sudden decline in American military power.  Americans would also see US growth-killing borrowing costs soar to levels to which Europeans have become dangerously accustomed.
Emerging powers together with China and the EU would almost certainly push for a basket of currencies to act as the future world reserve with the mighty dollar reduced to being one in a ‘basket’ of reserve currencies.  America would in effect be shooting itself in the very foot Tea Party Republicans have lodged firmly in America’s mouth.
The implications of an American technical default for fragile Europe are clear.  It could cost up to $250bn to re-capitalise the Eurozone’s shaky banks.  The only reason the bond markets are not as yet panicking is that the European Central Bank said it would (unconstitutionally and illegitimately) ‘do all and anything’ to prop up the Eurozone economy.  In reality little or nothing is being done to reform the fundamental structural problems of economies such as Italy’s.  The merest shock could bring the whole Euro edifice crashing down.
It is therefore not without irony that the 1773 Boston Tea Party from which Mr Paul and his colleagues draw inspiration is itself largely a myth.  The myth has it that American patriots threw bundles of British-owned tea into Boston Harbour as a protest against an autocratic monarch trying to impose an unreasonable tax – the Stamp Tax.  In fact London was simply trying to get the American colonials to make a reasonable contribution to their own security.  The rest, as they always say is history…or rather myth. 
It would be an irony to say the least if a world financial edifice made in Washington is brought down by Washington.  Sadly such disgraceful Washington politicking makes it hard for those of us who believe in America to take America seriously at such time and that is profoundly dangerous. 
So, Mr Paul, you may see “things done differently” – disastrously so.  In other words grow up!
Anyone for Tea?
Julian Lindley-French